If you're in the market for a hot tub, you'll know that there are several different shapes available to you. So, which is better: round or square?
If you like a traditional look or would prefer a simpler, more relaxing experience, consider a round hot tub. If you want advanced technological features like lighting, waterfalls or the most powerful hydrotherapy jets, a square or rectangular spa is likely the better choice.
In this article, we'll run you through the pros and cons of each in more detail to help you make up your mind. You'll leave with a better idea of which shape will provide you with the kind of soak you're looking for.
Round hot tubs
When hot tubs first became popular in the US in the 1940s, round was actually the more common shape. But they've since fallen somewhat out of favor compared to their more modern square counterparts.
That said, round tubs are still a common addition to many homes, and you'll often see them featured in movies due to their classic look.
What are some pros and cons of the round hot tub? Let's find out.
Pros of round hot tubs
Thanks to their early beginnings, round hot tubs will undoubtedly bring a homely, traditional feel to your backyard. If you're looking to create a Scandinavian wonderland (especially in winter), a classic round shape will help you achieve this.
In my experience, round hot tubs often run deeper than their square alternatives. For example, the Nordic Crown XL is 38.5" (98cm) deep, compared to an average of around 34" (86cm) for other spas. This makes them an especially popular choice among taller bathers.
Unlike square spas, round hot tubs can create a unique whirlpool effect with their jets, thanks to their circular shape.
Whirlpool therapy is a gentler, whole body experience. If being pummeled by high-volume jets sounds like the last thing you want, swirling water over your body to increase blood circulation and loosen tight muscles instead will be much more soothing.
Round hot tubs generally have fewer jets than square tubs. As well as offering a less powerful and more relaxing soak, this also tends to bring the price down, so you can expect to pay a bit less for a round spa compared to a square model with similar specifications.
Round hot tubs usually offer full bench seating without dividers, creating a flexible space to soak. If one jet isn't quite hitting the spot, simply shift a little to the left or right. With a square tub however, you only have the same few fixed positions to choose from.
With a group of bathers in a round tub facing each other, you can easily have friends and family relax together—and enjoy good conversation at the same time.
Choice of materials
Vinyl, acrylic, wood, rotomolded... hot tubs come in many different forms. The good news is that it's possible to find round hot tubs made from any of these materials. By contrast, it's almost impossible to find, for example, a wooden square hot tub.
Cons of round hot tubs
Rigid seating position
Square tubs often come with recliners, or at the very least, bucket-style seating designed to let you sit back at an angle. Round tubs tend to be more upright, which means you can fit more people in—as long as you're okay with only being able to sit up straight.
Lack of legroom
The downside of having enough seating for groups is that you can quite quickly run into legroom issues. With just a small area in the center of the tub for everyone's feet, you may find that you can't stretch out your legs properly for comfort when tubbing with friends or family.
This makes the social experience in a round hot tub somewhat rigid, as opposed to everyone being fully able to relax.
The lower popularity of round hot tubs means that most manufacturers only offer one or two round models. This makes them not only harder to find, but also means you have less choice when it comes to specification and features. With square hot tubs, you'll have plenty of options ranging from entry-level to elite, full-featured models.
Square hot tubs
Although square spas are a more modern addition to the hot tub scene, they tend to dominate the market today. They're typically more expensive to buy, but you'll have a lot more choice when it comes to brands, models, specifications, and features.
Pros of square hot tubs
With all the technological advancements in hot tub design in recent years, you'll find all of it in the right square tub. Lights, music, waterfalls, fountains, app control... you name it, there's a square spa with it. If you want a glowing, colorful, contemporary look for your hot tub, square is the way to go.
Quality square hot tubs offer the most powerful jets. If you're serious about hydrotherapy and looking for deep tissue massage or want to use your spa for sports recovery, you'll really only get the full benefits from an advanced square model.
Square hot tubs are a great choice if you're trying to get the most hot tub for the external space available. This is because you won't have to leave any dead space for rounded corners, as you would with a round tub.
Multiple seating angles
If you're looking to stretch out your feet after a long day, square hot tubs make the better pick. Where round tubs offer a single designated upright seating position, square tubs usually have much more complex shell designs, making them more comfortable overall for most people.
Their seats include different depths, with different jet patterns, backrest angles, and directions you can face. Many also have full recliner seats, allowing for the ultimate relaxed position.
Very wide selection
If you go for a square tub, you won't be limited by what you can buy and where from. All the major manufacturers focus primarily on square shapes now, plus you can find many second-hand square hot tubs at great prices if you're not looking to buy new.
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Cons of square hot tubs
Fixed seating positions
With a rigid shell and lack of bench seating, you have a more limited configuration for entertaining guests in a square hot tub. You must use each seat as it's designed to be used—trying to sit between seats at different heights or with ridges in between can get uncomfortable fast!
Fewer seats for the space
Square hot tubs (especially those with recliners) provide more legroom, but it's at the expense of more seats. For example, a recliner designed to accommodate the full length of your body takes up an entire side of a 6" square hot tub. That's space that could have been used to fit several smaller seats.
Lack of wooden options
Some people just love the look of a traditional wood hot tub. If this is you, you're likely going to be limited to a round shape, as I am not aware of any manufacturer that offers a square tub in this style (if you know of one, let me know!).
Round vs square: how to decide
As you can see, both shapes have their advantages and shortcomings. Whether a round or square shape will suit you better ultimately depends on how you're planning to use your spa.
Consider a round hot tub if:
- you want an earthy, traditional look
- you are tall, and want your shoulders to be submerged
- you prefer a gentle soak over powerful jets
- you love the idea of using your tub to socialize with groups of friends
A square tub is likely the better choice if:
- you're excited by the latest technology and want colorful lights, music and fountains
- you want the most advanced hydrotherapy experience
- you are mostly planning to use your spa alone or as a couple or small group